Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 20, 2012. Rock Houses.

We're still traveling the Vermillion Cliffs Highway
 in Arizona and here we are at Rock Houses.

Gotta stop and check it out.

 The erosion of sandstone formations leaves a variety 
of crevices, caves and overhangs.
Over time, travelers and residents found
creative ways to use these natural features 
as temporary or permanent shelters.

 Mr. Hawthorne checks out one of the Rock Houses.

The story of the Rock Houses
begins during the Great Depression.
Around 1927, Blanche Russell, 
a former Zeigfield Follies dancer,
gave up her highly successful career back East
to tend to her husband, Bill,
 who was suffering from tuberculosis.
The couple packed up and moved to the southwest.

The Russells' car broke down
 as they traveled through this area,
near the big rocks.
Forced to camp overnight,
Blanche decided she liked the scenery so much
that she bought property and stayed.
The couple threw up a lean-to of tarpaper and boards
against the largest rock.
The stone buildings under these littered, balanced boulders
were built shortly after, in the 1930s.

The Russells stumbled onto a unique
 money-making operation here.
Blanche started serving food to passers-by
in return for labor as the house got larger.
Soon, the couple had a full-scale restaurant
and trading post on their hands.

They also catered to the Mormons, 
living in Arizona,
who traveled through this area
to have their marriages sanctified
at the temple in St. George, Utah.

After about ten years of living in this isolation,
Blanche tired of it,
and sold it to a local rancher, Jack Church,
who added his own personal touch 
by turning the restaurant into a bar during World War II.

In 1943,  third owners, Art and Evelyn Greene,
purchased the land. 
They kept the old dwelling,
which then consisted of eight buildings and a gas generator.

The Greens eventually opened the new
Cliff Dwellings Lodge in the early 50s.

The Greenes used the lodge as a base for some of 
the first guided boat tours of the Colorado River,
run by Earl Johnson, who was 81 at the time.
Johnson recalled it was hard living,
especially during the A-bomb tests 
in the Nevada desert.
The subsurface vibrations nearly knocked
the largest rock off its mooring. 
As Johnson said,
"It was pretty lonely since there was no telephone
and we could only get two radio stations on a good day.
But at least we had our beer license and
Conoco serviced the gas pump.
We'd go arrowhead hunting around there to pass the time."

79-year old Evelyn Greene said that her mother-in-law
did most of the cooking for the restaurant.
It became a favorite for Boy Scout troops 
who went on outings in the area.
A tour bus also stopped three times a day
as tourists took in the unusual surroundings.

Greene also worried about the area:
"It got really scary, though, because all the rocks
up there were wearing away at the bottoms.  
When we finally moved, we didn't do it
a bit too soon."

A waitress at the current Cliff Dwellers restaurant
gripes about all the rattlesnakes in the area,
saying she's nearly stepped on seven of them 
in the short distance between her apartment and the restaurant
in the past three months.

Inside looking out.

I have a funny story about this picture.

I posted this on Rosie's Facebook page,
with my usual caption,
"Where's Rosie?" 

One of my friends and readers, Lori in Michigan,
commented on that post,
"At the Comfort Inn.
For her Freebie!!!"

Good one, Lori.
Mr. Hawthorne and I both got a kick out of that.
Thanks for the laughs!

The Indians set up their wares
anywhere and everywhere.

Stay tuned for dinosaurs!


Lori K said...

Thanks Rosie...Glad I made you and Mr. H. laugh!!!

Dh said...

Hahaaa!! :)